PLANO, Texas — The leader of the Oath Keeper group whom the FBI says organized some of the attacks at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was ordered Friday to be held in custody until at least a detention hearing next week.
Elmer Stewart Rhodes III from Granbury was arrested Thursday in Little Elm. The U.S. Justice Department has charged him with “seditious conspiracy” among other charges related to the assault on the Capitol, claiming that he texted his followers that day that “we aren’t getting through this without a civil war."
But, in a charge going back to the John Adams administration and one that was also used extensively during World War I, Collin College professor Dr. Michael Phillips says convictions can be difficult.
“Generally these cases trip up on the issue of free speech,” said Dr. Phillips “There’s a very high standard set for conviction in such cases.”
But the FBI says Rhodes also purchased $40,000 worth of ammunition and equipment in advance of Jan. 6, alleging the purchases were intended to help carry out the threat to stop the certification of the election results.
“You actually have to have those words connected to action,” Phillips said of that evidence that prosecutors suggest bolsters their seditious conspiracy charge.
But free speech is exactly what Rhodes’ supporters and attorneys will argue, and did so after the court hearing: defense attorneys who plan to argue for Rhodes’ release pending trial.
“Is he a danger and is he a flight risk? We don’t think the government can prove either one,” defense attorney Phillip Linder said.
“He’s got no criminal history. He’s a Yale Law graduate. He has no passport so he’s not a flight risk,” said defense attorney James Lee Bright.
Rhodes will be held in custody until at least a detention hearing at the United Sates Courthouse in Plano next Thursday, Jan. 20 at 10 a.m. Among the now more than 725 defendants charged with crimes related to the assault on the capitol, he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the charge of seditious conspiracy.